Chihana 'liberated Malawi from dictatorship'

Veteran politician Chakufwa Chihana, who rallied opposition to the iron-fist dictatorship of the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda, died in South Africa early on Monday after an unsuccessful attempt to remove a brain tumour, the government and relatives said. He was 67.

Chihana was diagnosed with the tumour last month after suffering persistent headaches and sought treatment in neighbouring South Africa, according to his son, Enock. He died at about 8am at Johannesburg’s Garden City clinic, the son said.

President Bingu wa Mutharika declared five days of national morning for Chihana, and said he will be given a state funeral.

Former president Bakili Muluzi, speaking from London where he is recovering from back surgery, said: “Chakufwa sacrificed his life and personal happiness to liberate Malawi from the shackles of dictatorship.”

Chihana, a former trade unionist detained without trial for six years in the 1970s, rose to popularity when in 1992 he openly challenged former president-for-life Banda in elections.

Chihana fiercely criticised Banda during trips abroad and was arrested upon his return to Malawi in April 1992.

His high-profile sedition trial fuelled a local and international campaign for change, forcing Banda to call a referendum in 1993 in which Malawians voted overwhelmingly for the restoration of multiparty democracy.

Chihana ran for president in 1994, but lost to Muluzi, a former Banda protégé.
He twice served in Muluzi’s government as second vice-president.

Funeral details were not immediately available.—Sapa-AP

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